Alcohol vs Drugs: How Does Drug and Alcohol Detox Differ?

alcohol vs drugs

A study in 2014 found that over 20 million people in the US struggled with addiction.

Since then, more and more cases have been reported every year, meaning that addiction is continuing to increase in prevalence.

Another major issue is that these statistics are likely only a low estimate. This is because many people who have an addiction may not be ready to admit that they do. And if they are using illegal substances, they may also lie if they are ever questioned in order to create these statistics.

For those who are trying to get better though, the detox process can be very difficult and sometimes feel insurmountable.

This is because the body becomes dependent upon the drug so that when it is no longer in the system, the body begins to react. First, it has to remove all traces of the substance from the body and then reestablish the internal systems to how they were before they were dependent.

What’s incredible is that everyone’s body is capable of doing this, but it requires a strong determination to get better and time to overcome the addiction.

But when it comes to alcohol vs drugs, is the detox process any different? Read on to learn everything you need to know.

Is It a Case of Alcohol vs Drugs?

One point many people raise is that alcohol itself is a drug, so why do we separate the two when talking about addiction?

In short, it mainly does come down to semantics and cultural trends.

Alcohol has been legal for decades, is a fermented drink, and is sold in grocery stores and specialist shops. Most other drugs that lead to addiction, however, are illegally obtained or medically prescribed, and so are more often associated with crime and pharmacies.

The detox process is relatively similar between the two, but there actually are a few differences.

General Withdrawal Symptoms

Going through withdrawal is slightly different for each person.

It depends on a number of factors such as how much of the drug you took, how long you took it for, your other lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise, and also if you’ve suddenly “gone cold turkey” or have begun trying to phase out the drug slowly before quitting completely.

Just because you’ve mentally decided that you want to stop does not mean that your body will not continue to crave the drug. In the same way, the dependency took time to grow, it will take some time for it to go as well.

The most common withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Shaking/trembling
  • Nausea and possibly vomiting
  • Increased irritability
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety

If the dependency is very high, then fevers, hallucinations, and even seizures can be experienced by some people.

The Duration of a Detox

To be clear, the detox process is simply your body adjusting to not having the drug in its system any longer. It does not mean the addiction itself is gone.

As mentioned above, there are many factors which will determine the detox process, and this applies to its duration as well.

Because of this, a detox can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks with the longer durations often being the most severe cases.

Do You Need Medical Care?

Detoxing with medical care is most often needed for those withdrawing from drugs rather than alcohol.

Of course, if the addiction is severe, then it could be dangerous to attempt to detox without medical care.

With medical supervision, a person can receive a variety of professional help that will aid in their recovery. For example, in some cases, you may get counseling services to talk through any issues you are having or discomfort you are feeling.

Rather than becoming paranoid that something terrible might happen, you will have someone there to check on you and let you know you’re alright.

They may also prescribe pain relievers to help with the withdrawal symptoms and possibly other medications, too, which we will cover below.

Alcohol: Delerium Tremens

One side effect that is exclusive to alcohol withdrawal is known as ‘delirium tremens’ (DTs), a condition that will usually only occur after a person has been heavily abusing alcohol for over a month.

In this case, ‘heavy abuse’ equates to 6-8 pints of wine or beer, or up to a pint of liquor per day.

As you can imagine, when someone stops binging in this way, the body has a very extreme reaction.

DTs usually happen a few days after a person has stopped drinking, and the symptoms occur very rapidly.

They are described as an immediate feeling of confusion and disorientation with heavy sweating and a fast heart rate. It also is known to cause hallucinations and nightmares which makes the recovery process that much more challenging.

However, DTs only last a few days, and once they are over, you will not experience them again throughout your recovery.

With medical supervision, it’s also possible that benzodiazepines will be prescribed to help you and your body cope through your alcohol detox.

Drugs: Medication

A drug detox is slightly different because the chemical composition of illegal drugs like heroin and legal prescription drugs like Vicodin and OxyContin can be mirrored by synthetics and treated with other options.

A synthetic works by providing none of the high enjoyed by the addict but still giving the body similar chemicals to abate the withdrawal symptoms.

Again, medical supervision during detox is the safest way to do it since it provides the best care at the times a person needs it most.

Detox Programs

When it comes to alcohol vs drugs, there really is not that much of a difference. Regardless of the addiction, one of the best ways to ensure that recovery starts the right way is through a professional detox program.

This will give you the space to feel at your worst surrounded by those who fully understand what you’re going through and who are there to help.

If you or someone you know is in need of help, check out our facility and detox programs to find the exact service you need.